My Child Has an IEP, What Are Next Steps?
Now that you have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for your child, which puts services and supports in place to help meet their needs in the classroom, what happens next? Once signed, your child's IEP becomes a legal contract between you and the school. And it's time to take next steps.
So, what are the next steps?
1. Build Relationships with Your Child's IEP Team
In a previous post, I encouraged you to build relationships with your child's IEP team. This is a crucial step because you will foster trust and communication with your child's teachers and specialists. It also opens a pathway to discuss important topics in a conversational and confident way.If you have a point of concern, always start with your child's teacher and work with the school to resolve the concern first. And point out the positives before addressing the negatives. As I wrote in this post, by approaching team members with a positive attitude, you demonstrate a desire to work together with the school for your child. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see how far these small gestures of kindness go toward developing strong teamwork and communication for your child!
2. Monitor Your Child's Progress
Monitor your child's grades and progress reports. Grades will help you understand your child's progress in the general curriculum. Progress reports will help you understand how your child is meeting her IEP goals. Remember, IEP goals can be academic and social/emotional in nature. If at any point in time you feel like her goals aren't being met, you can request a team meeting, which we'll talk more about next.
3. Know Your Rights
If you have questions or concerns about your child's progress, it is your right to ask the IEP team for a meeting. Request this in writing, even if you've talked to the team members in person or on the phone. The team must meet with you within 30 days of your request. This right is always available to you and you can ask for a meeting at any time. Also, if you feel like your child's IEP needs to be updated or changed, you can bring up those changes at the meeting. If changes are made, the team will create a new, updated IEP. Once you sign this document, it will become your child's IEP for one year from when it is signed.
4. Take Action Steps (if needed)
If after meeting with your child's teachers, the IEP team, and school administrators you feel like progress still isn't being made, you can take the following steps:
- Ask for mediation - A neutral mediator will be provided to help you and the school to resolve your differences.
- File a complaint with the state Department of Education (DOE in Louisiana and many other states; DESE or Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in Massachusetts) - If you can't reach an agreement through mediation, you can request help from the state through the DOE/DESE.
- File for a Due Process Hearing - If neither mediation nor help from the DOE/DESE resolves the problem, you can file for a due process hearing. This is like a court trial and should be your last resort.
5. Finally, Be Positive and Patient
Your child's special education journey is unfolding. There will be bumps and hiccups along the way. Know that just like any journey in life this is normal. Stay positive and choose to advocate when needed. Be patient and always keep your child's needs at the forefront of your decisions. If it feels like emotions are running high, take a step back and give yourself time to process those emotions before acting.